By Dr. Raymond J. Huntington
School is filled with a variety of challenges and stressful situations, but for many young students, test time is a major source of anxiety and fear. Help your child learn preparation methods for classroom quizzes and tests (as well as diagnostic or standardized exams) and stress management techniques that will be useful throughout his or her education. Here are a few tips on how to help your child improve his or her test taking abilities:
Create a home environment that nurtures learning.
The easiest way parents can help their children be prepared for tests is to support their education. Be sure your child completes his or her homework each day (and offer your assistance as needed). Stay in touch with your child’s teacher about his or her progress and how you can help with class work at home. Sign up your child for any practice test opportunities at school. The night before a test day, make certain your child gets plenty of sleep and the day of, be sure he or she eats a healthy breakfast.
Minimize the pressure you place on your child.
It’s true that tests are an important tool for teachers to assess students’ skill levels, but parents should avoid putting added pressure on their child about an upcoming exam. Encourage your child to do his or her best. After a test, praise your child for his or her efforts rather than solely focusing on his or her mistakes. And remember: Test scores are not a perfect measure of a child’s capabilities, so if your child performs poorly, remind him or her that there will be many future opportunities to do better.
Teach your child strategies for stress management.
Feelings of anxiety make it difficult for many students to comprehend and retrieve information and think clearly. This means that even a well-prepared student might struggle during a test because his or her stress level is high. Here are a few stress-busters your child can practice when he or she feels nervous during a test:
· Breathe deeply while concentrating on calming thoughts.
· Focus on the good things about the situation (such as those questions that your child does know the answer to, rather than those he or she does not know).
· Take a mental break for 10 or 20 seconds by thinking about something positive (such as a fun or happy memory).
Encourage your child to stick with tried-and-true methods during the test.
While there’s no sure-fire way for your child to ace every exam in his or her life, here are a few things he or she should do during every test:
· Read all questions thoroughly. For math word problems, for example, identify the question first, then search the rest of the problem for information that will help you calculate your answer.
· If you don’t know the answer to a question, eliminate choices that do not make sense or are obviously incorrect.
· Eliminate extra information provided in a problem that has nothing to do with the question being asked.
· If you get stuck on problems, circle them and move on (and return to try again if you have time at the end of the test).
· Pace yourself. If an exam is one hour long and there are 20 questions to answer, that equates to 3 minutes per question. Try to leave a few minutes at the end of the test to revisit skipped or troublesome problems.
· If you like seeing things visually, draw out problems whenever possible.
Parents who want additional information are encouraged to call the local Huntington Learning Center at (253) 582-4901.